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Tarocchi Visconti Sforza by Il Meneghello

Visconti Sforza Queen of Batons

I already have three full-sized facsimiles of the Visconti-Sforza deck. So when I came across yet another version, published by Il Meneghello in 1996, I wrestled with temptation for a couple of weeks before succumbing. I’m very glad temptation won out because this deck is the best of the lot.

I compared this deck with my other three: Dal Negro, USGames 1984 and USGames 2015 (with portraits of Francesco and Bianca Sforza on extra cards).

The first thing I checked out was the gold background on the Trump cards. When I hold the Il Meneghello cards up to the light, the gold seems to glow from within. With the other three decks, the light bounces off the surface. The USGames 2015 actually has a brighter yellow-gold background. But the entire deck has a yellowish cast which mutes the foreground colors and makes the gray beards on the Hermit and Emperor a somewhat off-putting yellow. In the USGames 1984 deck all the gold is rendered as dark bronze. If you want glittering gold you’ll have to get Lo Scarabeo’s gold foil version. But no deck begins to approach the magical aura of the original cards.

The foreground colors on the Il Meneghello deck are deeper and richer than any of the other decks, making for more contrast and better detail. But some of the more delicate details, like the sunburst on the gold coins, are very sketchy on this deck and much more defined in the USGames 2015 deck.

The white background on the pip cards has been cleaned up and brightened slightly. Not to the extent that it looks artificial; just enough so the floral decoration pops out and comes alive. On other decks, especially the Dal Negro, the background can be a bit dingy.

The sword blades were done in silver leaf which has tarnished and darkened over the centuries. The swords in this deck are dark gray, with hilts that are a pleasant shiny gold. In both USGames decks the blades appear blue; while in the Dal Negro the blades are dark gray and the hilts are a deep antique gold.

vs-replcmntThe most important consideration for me is the state of the Tower and Devil replacement cards. How anachronistic and modeled on the Tarot de Marseille are they? Do they blend with the late Gothic style of the rest of the deck?

The Il Meneghello deck wins out on this score, with replacement cards designed by Giovanni Scarsato that establish a balance between historical correctness and giving consumers the cards they’re used to seeing. The closest models for these cards that I could find are the uncut sheets of trump cards in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City dating from about 1500.

In all four decks, the Tower is a straight brick building whose top is being blasted off by fire or lightning bolts coming from the upper right corner of the card. The other three decks have two falling figures in the style of Tarot de Marseille. The Il Meneghello has just one falling figure that looks very much like the Knight of Coins, which is also a replacement card. Bricks are falling from the tower, but, contrary to custom, the top is still in place.

The other three decks have anachronistic Devil cards with two people chained at his feet as in the Tarot de Marseille. Il Meneghello gives us a more medieval Devil. Both US Games decks have the same over-the-top, psychedelic replacement cards that pretty much ruin the deck artistically.

All the court cards of one suit have the same pattern on their robes. It should be a no-brainer to give the Knight of Coins the same clothing as the other three court figures, but only USGames managed to do it.

Il Meneghello did a smaller version of this deck in 2002 with identical replacement cards. But there’s nothing like seeing the deck in its full-size 7″x 3.5″ glory to really appreciate the presence these cards have. The cards are very thick and sturdy, making the deck stand one-third again higher than the others.

Tarocchi Visconti Sforza. Il Meneghello, Milano, 1996. Edition of 1000.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi, Someone shared this post on Facebook and I am so glad to connect. I bought this deck just last week in Florence. My 4th ancient deck and I am leaning more towards those and leaving other decks in the drawer. Glad to have found you 🙂

    February 4, 2017
    • and thank you 🙂

      February 4, 2017
    • Hi Denise and welcome to the world of historic decks. You might be interested in two facebook groups: Tarot History and Tarosophy de Marseille. The latter focuses on reading techniques.
      TarotForum.net has discussion threads for history in general and the Tarot de Marseille in particular. There are plenty of places on line to interact with other tarot history enthusiasts. Hope to see you there.

      February 4, 2017
  2. I have this on order and hope to receive it shortly (impatiently awaiting it from overseas). 🙂

    August 6, 2017
  3. Reblogged this on Among the Usual Days and commented:
    Reading this, I am looking forward to receiving my Il Meneghello Visconti Sforza even more!

    August 6, 2017
    • Wayne #

      Hello, could you tell me where I can buy the il meneghello visconti sforza deck? I cant find it anywhere and am really excited about getting one.

      Thank you

      April 11, 2019
    • Wayne #

      Hello, I’m desperately trying to find the visconti sforza il meneghello version but cant find one anywhere. Can you tell me which version you purchased and where I might be able to find what I’m looking for? I had no idea it would be this difficult to locate the version I’m wanting, but I’m keeping positive mind about it.

      Thank you

      April 11, 2019
  4. Thanks so much, Missy, for the reblog. You’ll be thrilled with your deck when it arrives.

    August 7, 2017
  5. Terry #

    I found your post very informative and have somebof the decks you mentioned. I am curious if the 1000 deck done in 1996 by Il Menenghello were the only copies published. My copy has a different cover on the booklet where the decks are numbered but I have seen copies where there is a lot more information listed and and it also has the company logo. Mine, and others seen online, have a much simpler layout with no logo and more blank space, although it still does list which number out of 1000 it is. Confusing. It would seem odd to have 2 types of fronts on the leaflet in the same pressing. Just trying to get some clarification and you seemed very knowledgeable. The box, card size, backs and insert acknowledginging, in Italian, the replacement of the 4 missing cards are all the same. Thanks, Terry

    January 20, 2022
    • Hi Terry,
      As far as I know the 1996 edition of 1,000 was not reprinted that year. They did a printing of 1500 in 2018, so don’t confuse the two. It’s not unusual for them to put different cards on the cover. Many years ago I bought a Milanese style TdM from them. When it arrived I was dismayed to realize I already had the deck. I thought I was getting something different because they had pasted a different card on the box.

      I suppose it’s possible that they put different cards and booklets in the package, depending on what they have available at the time. My 1996 deck as a card with a lot of detail and a dual language booklet. The 2018 deck has only a card with less information than the 1996 card.

      You could contact Cristina Dorsini, who runs the shop, at info @ IlMeneghello.it for more clarification.
      I hope this helps.

      January 20, 2022
  6. Fred Farrar #

    I received my Il Meneghello Visconti Sforza deck on Friday 18 February, 2022, only to discover that it’s just printed with ordinary printer’s ink exactly as in the accompanying book. There’s no gold or silver effect, no deep lustre, nothing to justify it being regarded as a high quality product at all. I’m very disappointed. Worse still, it came with an information card saying it was from the 2018 edition, when I’ve seen that edition on a YouTube video and it clearly is not the same deck. Unless Meneghello did two 2018 editions, that’s misselling.

    February 19, 2022
    • Hi Fred, I’m sorry you were disappointed in the deck. I just reread my 2017 review and realized I may have mislead people into thinking it was printed with gold. Lo Scarabeo is the only publisher who does gold foil. I was just pleased with the soft gold luster when the cards are held up to the light.
      I acquired the 2018 edition after writing this review. It’s identical to the 1996 deck except that in the 1996 version the skin tones are a bit darker and the gold background is slightly duller.
      Il Meneghello has at least three styles of boxes for their decks. In a print run of 1500 decks, they don’t put the same card on the cover of every box; and I think they might even switch to a different kind of box. That can be confusing and may be why you thought you saw a different deck on Youtube.
      Once, I ordered a deck from them thinking I was getting something new. When it arrived, I realized I already had the deck, there was just a different card pasted on the box, which fooled me. I’m quite sure there was only one 2018 version of the deck. In fact, all their printings are identical except for slight variations in color tone, and card size.

      February 20, 2022

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